As the margins resisted and decentered the center, they also
transformed themselves. Unable to sustain a seamless, autonomous
selfhood of Otherness, some margins embarked on internal critiques
of their own homogenization. The center/margin dichotomy
was undermined and spaces opened up between center and
margins. . . . Some margins moved into the center. Some margins
began to communicate with each other, without the center as
interlocutor between them.
—Smadar Lavie and Ted Swedenburg, introduction to
Displacement, Diaspora, and Geographies of Identity
James Baldwin attended his first play, the voodoo Macbeth, at age thir-
teen, taken by a white mentor who introduced him to revolutionary
ideas through theater and film. Of witnessing the play’s powerful spec-
tacle, Baldwin averred that it drove his conversion to the church and
the ministry. For him the “terror and exhilaration” of “seeing living
black actors on a living stage,” playing Macbeth’s “majesty and torment,”
“blood and crime,” proved “we are all each other’s flesh and blood.”
Baldwin found that theater and church alike were venues for sustain-
ing life and faith. The encounter was spiritual. He felt himself aware
and a part of an audience on the verge of an adventure promised by the
contingent, mortal “ribbon of light” at the base of the curtain. Light
that like flashing projected images illuminated the connections between
black people and places across thin boundaries of curtain and screen
and border. Baldwin’s response communicates the power of black per-
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